The debate over the death penalty has been one that has been around for decades. But despite this, it is still frequently carried out in developed countries such as The United Stated and in Middle Eastern countries. There have been legislations put in place. Both internationally and domestically- to address its use and arguments have been made on. Both sides of divide, as it relates to the efficacy of the death penalty. Moreover, there have been an increasing number of instruments who are in favour of the abolition of the death penalty. In addressing these issues, an overview of the international. And domestic legislation will be given, followed by the arguments for and against the death penalty and recommendations will be made.
According to The International Bar Association (IBA). One of the most important treaty provision governing the death. Penalty is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), The ICCPR is a multilateral treaty which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966. With reference to Article 6 of the ICCPR, there is no motion against the use of the death penalty but there are rules laid down in regards to its administration. According to the ICCPR, the death penalty should only be limited to the most serious of crimes, according to the law at the time of the commission of the crime. During the 45th plenary meeting of the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council, it stipulated that the most serious crimes applies to international crimes with lethal or otherwise extremely grave consequences. The ICCPR also emphasised that a fair trial should be conducted before the administration of the death penalty.
Article 14 of the ICCPR defines a fair trial as; the presumption of innocence before guilt; to be informed of the charges in a language that the person can understand; to choose their own council or be assigned council and not pay for it, if the person on trial cannot afford it; to be given time and facilities to prepare his defense; to examine witnesses against him; to have free access to an interpreter, if needed; not being compelled to confess; the right to an appeal and the right not to be tried again for the same crime. In addition to these tenants of a fair trial, the basic principles on the independence of the judiciary, the role of lawyers, the role of prosecutors, the protection of all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment and the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoner as according to the United Nations should also be taken into account.
If after all these factors are taken into account, it should be noted that the person who has convicted to death should have to right to seek pardon or have his sentence commuted. The death penalty also cannot be given to someone whose rights under the ICCPR have been breached. This can include torment that results from waiting long periods before an execution is to be carried or the execution method, such as a gas chamber, which constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. It should also be noted that no one below the age of 18 or a pregnant woman should be given the death penalty.
Under domestic law, as according to the Jamaica offense against the person act in 2005, aggravated murder may be punishable by death. Murders committed during the course of or furtherance of another crime, repeated murderers or murder for hire may also be punishable by death. The method of execution is hanging however, according to section 90 of the Jamaican constitution, the Governor-General may commute the sentence of death to a lesser one. There have however been major changes to the death penalty in Jamaica over the years.
In the 2010 ruling of Peter Douglas v R, the Privy Council ruled that the Jamaican courts should follow the ruling of the Trimmingham v The Queen case from St Vincent and the Grenadines. It stated that for the death penalty to be imposed, the crime must be “the most extreme and exceptional”, “the worst of the worst”, or “the rarest of the rare” and that there should be no possibility of reform for the offender. If the offender is caught then there was a time where if he spent more than five years on death row; he could not be executed as according to the Pratt & Morgan v. Jamaica case in 1993.
This case was later reinforced by Lewis v. Attorney General of Jamaica in 2000, which ruled that Jamaica should allow the completion of all appeals including those to international tribunals. However, in 2011, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms was passed which replace part 3 of the Jamaican constitution and it voided the Pratt v. Morgan ruling by explicitly not stating the duration of those on death row. It also voided the Lewis v. Attorney General of Jamaica ruling by requiring the Governor General to provide a notice of no less than 18 months to a death row inmate that all appeals including those to international tribunals should be concluded. The constitutional provision also specifies that the Governor General is not obligated to consider any publication by external bodies after this date. This is supposedly an effort to speed up future death row cases but if Jamaica is to sentence someone to death, there are some pros and cons to be considered.